Game on for pubs

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Related tags: Six nations championship, Wales national rugby union team, Six nations

The Six Nations is a perfect opportunity to drive sales up in your pub. Phil Mellows reports.It's cold, damp and gloomy. Christmas is a memory that...

The Six Nations is a perfect opportunity to drive sales up in your pub. Phil Mellows reports.

It's cold, damp and gloomy. Christmas is a memory that twinkles fitfully in the distance and summer is so far off it feels as though the sun will never again rise above knee height. It can mean only one thing. The RBS Six Nations rugby tournament is about to kick off. For six weeks from February 4, the competition will brighten the lives of rugby fans across the UK - and for many pubs it will bring a welcome lift to trade during one of the slowest periods of the year.

While some of the world's top players are grunting in the mud, thousands of supporters will be choosing to watch the games live in a nice warm pub where the presence of a crowd, not to mention the chance to have a pint or two, will create a big match atmosphere second only to being there at the ground.

In recent years the fixtures have been timed, it seems, with the pub in mind. All the games are live on terrestrial TV and played at the weekends between lunchtime and early evening, offering the shrewd licensee plenty of opportunity to offer fans encouragement to spend the whole afternoon there - if they need any encouragement, that is.

The 2003 Rugby World Cup now seems a long time ago. But the huge boost that England's famous victory gave to the sport lingers on in the shape of a new wave of followers, an army of fans that includes women as well as men, young as well as old.

While England are not the side they were, interest will be revived with the Six Nations, a tournament that was itself given a thrilling twist in 2005 with the surprise triumph of Wales.

So long in the doldrums, the Welsh rediscovered their glory days by completing a shock Grand Slam to defy odds of 40-1.

This time around they will be missing the suspended Gavin Henson, at least during the first half of the tournament.

His absence means the odds against Wales winning again have gone out to 9-2. The French, at a mean 5-6, are favourites again thanks to their all-round consistency and scary looks.

But what of 2-1 shots England? The team is still in the process of being rebuilt after the departure of key elements of the World Cup winning line-up. The speculation that former skipper Lawrence Dallaglio may make a comeback could be interpreted as a symptom of weakness as much as anything.

After Wales surprised everyone last year, though, nothing can be ruled out. In what might turn out to be an open competition Ireland are a tempting bet at 16-1, and Scotland have the grit to cause an upset, if not come away with any silverware.

The only certainty is that the Six Nations will generate bags of interest and bring a lively bunch of customers into any pub that screens the games.

Licensees who promote well, take advantage of the support offered by their suppliers and add a bit of value through special menus, for instance, will maximise the opportunity.

Latest odds

  • France 5/6
  • England 2/1
  • Wales 9/2
  • Ireland 16/1
  • Scotland 50/1
  • Italy 500/1

The games

All matches are being screened live on BBC1 except where indicated

  • Saturday February 4
    1pmIreland v Italy
    3.20pmEngland v Wales

Sunday February 5
2.35pmScotland v France (BBC2)

Saturday February 11
1pmFrance v Ireland
3.30pmItaly v England

Sunday February 12
2.30pmWales v Scotland

Saturday February 25
1.40pmFrance v Italy
4pmScotland v England

Sunday February 26
2.30pmIreland v Wales

Saturday March 11
1.20pmWales v Italy
3.20pmIreland v Scotland

Sunday March 12
2.30pmFrance v England

Saturday March 18
1.05pmItaly v Scotland
3.20pmWales v France
5.30pmEngland v Ireland

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